clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Stephen Curry vs. Anthony Davis: A battle for the ages

New, comments

Late in the fourth quarter as the New Orleans Pelicans tried to pull a Game 3 Golden State Warriors on the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis faced off on the right wing. It was beautiful.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There was a moment late in the fourth quarter. It seemed to develop in slow motion, wind to a motion picture crawl as it happened, and finally coalesce to its awesome finish. The scene was set in Smoothie King Center, the Golden State Warriors had battered the New Orleans up and around the arena all game along, peaking at a 21-point lead late in the third quarter. Stephen Curry had dominated beyond the arc, in the paint, and everywhere in between.

On the other side, Anthony Davis was up to his usual theatrics, nailing an unstoppable face-up jumper from all over the floor, ably suffocating the Warriors' best perimeter players, and protecting the rim in inhuman ubiquitous fashion. The other Pelicans failed to show up because they either were emotionally spent after the last game or simply wearing down against the top-seeded Warriors.

The Pelicans had cut the Warriors lead to 10 on a jumper by Davis. The Warriors offense has finally slowed to its first three games' level of movement. It was a lazy haze of limbs moving up, waiting for Stephen Curry to bail them out. This had worked so well in seasons before, seasons manned by lesser coaches, and unimportant players. Draymond Green set a screen, Curry refused it and went towards the baseline, Anthony Davis switched onto him as he has all series, and successfully so, and in that instant, the moment was set.

Curry flipped the ball nonchalantly between his legs, seemingly unaware that Davis' arms could easily reach the moon. One dribble to the left, one dribble to the right, where was his going? On TV, the angle we got had Davis' figure enveloping the slender one of Curry, to the point where we could only see the ball yo-yoing around the perimeter. The shot clock wound lower and lower, and with Davis' success flustering Curry's shot all season, there was a little less confidence than before. Earlier in the game, Curry airballed a midrange jumper as Davis flew onto his left side contesting the shot. Curry has rushed it and paid the price.

Then as soon as we could see Curry flashing out of Davis' shadow on TV, so was the subtle step-back to his right (rare move that increases the difficulty of finish) leading to the release of the ball, high-arcing it above the outstretched wings of The Brow, and into the waiting net. It was not a good play. It was a contested long two, shot with 12 seconds left on the clock, and with Steve Kerr on the sidelines begging for ball movement.

There was the tic-tac-toe play later in the game to cap the score, exemplifying the improvements the Warriors has made this year. But Curry's jumper over Davis told us everything about these Warriors as they march into the second round. No matter how great their supporting cast can be, no matter how superb the coaching staff is, and no matter how much success is tied to the defense, Stephen Curry is the head of the snake.

As Curry ran back on defense after being spilled on the floor, the game resumed. The Pelicans would cut it to single digits later, as Davis finished a spinning layup over Bogut and Green. The war was won by Stephen Curry, and the battle on the right wing gorgeously earned by Curry. But there will be many more of these, for two of the best basketball players in the world, dueling to a statistical draw through four games.

But for the Golden State Warriors, that play encapsulated the Warriors at their core. Stephen Curry should win the MVP in the coming week, and he will be celebrated for it, crowning his achievements as the 67-win team manning a top-level defense and another superb shooter besides him. But when the moment got big, when the Pelicans threatened ever so slightly the fabric of the inevitable sweep, Stephen Curry took over. It's his time and he damn well knows it.